• Sim Elliott

Pett Level and Rye Harbour Nature Reserve: a Great White Egret & a Spoonbill. 04.01.22

I started this walk at Cliff End (where Fairlight meets Pett Level), and walked to Winchelsea Beach, into the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve (Sussex Wildlife Trust). I took the train from Brighton to Hastings and then the Stagecoach 101 bus from Hastings Station to Cliff End (once an hour). From Rye Harbour I walked to Rye town station to get the train back to Brighton (changing at Hampden Park). When I started walking, at 11.20 at Cliff End it was about 7C and was sunny with some clouds, it then rained heavily; by the time I got the train back, at 16.47, it was only 3 degrees C.


On the train to Hastings I saw on the BIrdGuides App that Russian White Fronted Geese had been seen recently at the east of Pett Level; I didn't spot any, although there may have been some in the large flocks of Greylag Geese that I saw on Pett Level, as they are quite similar, but the Greylag Geese were too far off and too many to inspect each bird carefully. However, at the east of Pett Level, just as the settlement of Winchelsea Beach starts, I saw a Great White Egret; a very rare sighting, and in the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, in the New Salt, I saw a Spoonbill, another vert rare sighting, in exactly the same place that a saw a Spoonbill before, so it may have been the same Spoonbill


Walking along the seawall at Pett Level you can see out to sea, and over the levels and their pools. In the sea I saw a Great Crested Great; on the beach I saw a Turnstone; and in the field and pools of Pett Level I saw: Teal, Wigeon, Gadwalls, Mallards, Coots, Lapwings, Greylag Geese, Canada Geese, Curlew, Black-Tailed Godwits, Starlings, Carrion Crows, Little Egrets, Woodpigeons and a Great White Egret


In the pools and scrapes, and on the shingle and fields, of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, I saw Little Grebes, Carrion Crows, Shovelers, Teal, Wigeon, Shelducks, Cormorants, Oystercatchers, Redshanks, a Spoonbill, Dunnocks, and Blackbirds.


Google Maps - Satellite View; Cliff End to Rye Harbour - walking route in red.

https://goo.gl/maps/mW3hs7cHkUSAiUpaA


All of the photographs are presented in chronological order.


Cliff End

It was high tide, but at low tide you can see see petrified remnants of a 5,000 year old forest. For more information see: 'Little known' about ancient Pett Level sunken forest - BBC News


World War Two defence structure, Tout Rock; Cliff End

For more information about the wartime defences see: Toot Rock – Pett Level Preservation Trust


Pett Level


For interesting information about the birds of Pett Level see the posts on Pett Level see the posts of RX birding: Pett Level | Birding Walks in RXland (wordpress.com)


Lapwings over Pett Level


Black-Tailed Godwits


Herring Gulls; with Graylag Geese in the foreground


Curlew in flight


Lapwings, Herring Gulls and Greylag Geese


Curlew and Herring Gulls


Pett Level Beach - Great Crested Grebe


Lapwings and a Curlew


Robin in the reeds (Pett Pools)


Lapwings


I saw three of the wader from the Red List at Pett Pools on 04/01/22; and I frequently see Dunlin, Ringed Plovers and Whimbrel, and have seen Ruff (in season) at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve; Rye Bay is sight of great importance to waders

Lapwing remains our most numerous breeding wader, but numbers have declined by more than 50% since the 1960s. Numbers of Ringed Plover are also high relative to other red-listed waders, though this species has also declined sharply in recent decades and is highly vulnerable to disturbance on the shingle beaches where it breeds. Loss of suitable wetland habitat in the lowlands has driven declines of breeding Ruff, which is just about hanging on in the UK, and Black-tailed Godwit, which has recently seen its tiny breeding populations in England boosted by headstarting efforts. Despite an apparently stable winter population well in excess of 1 million individuals, Woodcock continues to decline steeply as a British breeding bird and remains the only UK red-listed wader that may legally be shot. Two of our rarest breeding waders nest almost exclusively in Shetland. The populations of these species, Whimbrel and Red-necked Phalarope, are extremely vulnerable in part due to their highly restricted range. Curlew, Whimbrel’s close relative, is a much more widespread bird, though declines of more than half since the 1970s have led to it being described as our most pressing conservation concern. Climate change is leading to habitat loss for many of our upland breeders, including Dotterel and Dunlin. The number of Dunlin spending the winter in the UK is down, too, perhaps because warming temperatures mean birds breeding in the northern Europe no longer need to migrate. This ‘short stopping’ has also been identified as possible driver of declines in the number of Purple Sandpiper spending the winter on our rocky shorelines. See less. https://www.facebook.com/The.BTO/posts/10158346523643038


Stonechat


Egyptian Geese and Coots

To find out about these 17th century colonial imports to Norfolk, now naturalised across England see this fascinating article: Specieswatch: Egyptian goose | Birds | The Guardian


Greylag Geese, Lapwings and Herring Gulls


Little Grebe (Pett Pools)


Wigeon (Pett Pools)


Cormorants



Tufted Dick (Pett Pools)


Lapwings


Coots seem to flourish on Pett Level around the pools.


A group of Redshanks (with Herring Gulls and Greylag Geese in the background)


Wigeon


A Gadwall


Gadwalls don't breed in Sussex; these are winter visitors probably form Northern Europe, or the arctic.


The gadwall is a very grey-coloured dabbling duck, a little smaller than the mallard, and with an obvious black rear end. It shows a white wing patch in flight. When seen close up the grey colour is made up of exquisitely fine barring and speckling. It nests in low numbers in the UK and is an Amber List species UK breeding:1,200 summer nesting pairs; UK wintering:25,000 birds Gadwall Bird Facts | Anas Strepera - The RSPB


Shovelers and Teal


Mallards


A Lapwing


A Little Egret (Pett Level)


A Cormorant and Lapwings


Canada Geese


Looking back to Cliff End


Gulls


Great Crested Grebe


In the distance I saw what I thought was a Great White Egret; but it was hard to tell, as I couldn't see it's bill colour.


I saw a pair of Mallard closer to me, and tyring 180 degress there wwas a Tu

and turning 180 degrees there was a Turnstone on the beach

when I had walked a little closer to the Egret, I saw yellow bill. My provisional identification was conformed. It was a Great White Egret. It was at the far east of Pett Level, standing in a pool in the middle of the marshes which made it difficult to photograph. It was joined by two juvenile Mute Swans and some Mallards, with Romney Sheep behind it.


The two juvenile Mute Swans

Great White Egret

Great White Egret and the two juvenile Mute Swans (as above)

Stretching a wing!


and two Mallards and Herring Gull join the Great White Egret and the Swans

The Herring Gull spooked the Egret and it flew off

and then landed



Just to the west of the reserve is a playing field; where a Herring Gull did a worm catching dance; as they do


Rye Harbour Nature Reserve (Sussex Wildlife Trust)


Rye Harbour Nature Reserve is one of my favourite nature sites in the UK; I visit it frequently. See Rye Harbour Nature Reserve 05.06.21: Black-headed Gull Chicks and a Spotted Redshank for photos of the flora and fauna of summer.

Looking out over the sea; the cold front and the band of heavy rain, forecast by the Met Office covered the reserve. The following photos were all taken in rain, of different heaviness, with very dark skies.


A Moorhen

A Magpie


The most westerly pools in the reserve


Wigeon (back) Herring Gull, a "farmyard duck" and a female Mallard


Lots of wigeon, and a Shoveler